James Talboys Wheeler.

Early records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio online

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Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 32 of 33)
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duce a scarcity of money in the country. This subject be-
comes every day more serious, as we already feel, in a very
sensible manner, the effects of the considerable drain made
from the silver currency. Experience will ever yield stronger
conviction than the most abstract and refined reasoning.

"Whatever sums had formerly been remitted to Delhi Nonreturn of
were amply reimbur>ed by the returns made to the immense ^p**'®



374 EARLY RECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.

commerce of Bengalj wliicli might be considered as the
central point to which all the riches of India were attracted.
Its manufactures found their way to the remotest part of
Hindostan, and specie flowed in by a thousand channels that
are at present lost and obstructed. All the European com-
panies formed their investments with money brought into the
country; the Gulphs^ poured in their treasures into this
river ; and across the contment, an inland trade was driven
to the westward to the extremity of the kingdom of Guzerat

Vast exports " How widely different from these are the present cir-

cumstances of the Nabob's dominions ! Immense treasures
have lately been carried out of the provinces by Meer Cossim,
which may possibly be reserved as a fund to excite future
troubles. Each of the European companies, by means of
money taken up in the country, have greatly enlarged
their annual investments, without adding a rupee to the
riches of the province. On the contrary, the increase of
exports to Europe has proved so great a restraint upon the
industry of private merchants, that we will venture to affirm
the balance from Europe, in favour of Bengal, amounts to
a very trifling sum in specie. We know of no foreign trade
existing at present which produces a clear balance in money,
except that carried on with the ports of Judda, Mocha, and
Bassora, from whence not fifteen lakhs ^ in bullion have been
returned in the course of four years.

Threatened ruin « When the provinccs of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa came

of Bengal. ..,.,. ., , , . ,

under your jurisdiction, they were much sunk m opulence,
population, and manufactures, from their ancient importance.
The almost continual irruptions of the Mahrattas, under the
government of Alliverdy Khan, and the avarice of the
ministers under the supineness of Seraj-u-doulah, the
necessities of Meer Jaffier, and the iron hand of the rapa-
cious and bloodthirsty Meer Cossira, struck equally at the
property of the rich, and industry of the poor : and while it
reduced the one to indigence, compelled the other to seek

1 The two Gulphs of Mocha aud Persia.
' 187,500^



BEGINNING OP BRITISH ADMINISTRATION. 375

safety in flight. If to these we add, first, the immense
amount in specie and jewels to the value of between three
and five crores of rupees ^ secreted or carried off by Cossim
after his several defeats had obliged him to relinquish all
hopes of a reinstatement : 2ndly, the royal tribute of twenty-
six " lakhs and the expence of about twenty lakhs for a brigade,
both paid annually out of the provinces, and consequently
out of the sphere of our immediate circulation : 3rdly, the
annual amount of our own, and the other nations' investments,
for which no value is received into the country : stilly, the
large exports of bullion to China and the different pre-
sidencies duriug the three last years : and lastly, the un-
avoidable misfortune and capital drain, the immense sums
paid into the cash of foreign nations, for bills on their
respective Companies. I say, the aggregate of these several
exports must appear inevitable and immediately ruinous to
the most flourishing state, much less be deemed tolerable to a
declining and exhausted country ! Yet it is in this situation
tlie Court of Directors, and the nation in general, have been
induced to expect prodigious remittances in specie, from a
country which produces little gold and no silver ; and where
any considerable imports of both have, for a series of years, been
rendered necessary to the trade of foreign Companies, by the
general demands for draughts on Europe.^'

It aiiT)ears from another calculation that during rise in the

, value of rupees.

three years the exports of buUion from Bengal
exceeded five millions sterling, whilst the imports
of bullion were little more than half a million.
Meantime the rupee rose to an exchange value of
two-and-sixpence.

The views of Vcrelst on the political situa- views of vcreist

on foicifju

tion of Bengal as regards the native powers in*"'^''^-

1 Between 3,750,000?. and 6,250,000/.
325,060/.



370



EARLY RECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.



ProBtration of
the Moghul
empire.



Weakness of
Native powers.



Hindustan may be gathered from the foUowmg
extracts : —

" The first and great cause of our security is tlie general
indigence of the Moghul empire. The invasion of Nadir Shah
gave the first stroke to its power and opulence, but it fell not
so heavily as is commonly imagined. It gave a mortal
wound, it is true, to the overgrown wealth and arrogance of
the Moghul grandees; but, as the blow was not pursued, its
efiect was not immediately felt beyond the capital. The erup-
tion of the Mahrattas ensued, their wide-extended ravages laid
desolate almost everything on the south side of the Ganges,
from near the frontiers of Behar on the east, to Sirhind on
the north and west. Their undistinguishing rapine plunged
cities and countries in one common ruin, and the empire must
have sunk under their oppression, or fallen a prey to their
ambition, if the defeat at Paniput had not put a period at
once to their power and devastations.' The expeditions of
Ahmad Shah Abdali succeeded, which, though neither so
extensive, destructive, or bloody as those of the Mahrattas,
still conduced greatly to exhaust a declining state; and
though his sphere of action was chiefly confined to the Panjab
and confines of Dehli, yet the vast sums he levied must have
been severely felt throughout a country which produces no
silver, and but very little gold. So large a decrease of specie
naturally produced a decay of trade, and a diminution of
cultivation ; and, though these evils have, in some measure, been
palliated in our provinces by the annual imports of bullion,
yet in the most flourishing interior parts, such as Benares,
Mirzapore, &c., the fact is notorious, and beyond dispute.

" The natural consequence of these circumstances has been,
that the diff'erent native powers find their finances narrow, and
their treasures unequal to the maintenance of a respectable
army, or the prosecution of a war of any duration. When-
ever, therefore, they are urged by ambition or necessity to..



1 The Mahrattas were defeated by the Afghans under Ahmad Shah
Abdali in 1761.



BEGINNING OF BRITISH ADMINISTRATION. 377

enter 011 any expedition, they assemble new levies for the
purpose with the most unreflectiug precipitancy ; they risk
everything on one campaig-n, because they have seldom re-
sources for a second ; and come to an engagement at all events,
because the consequences of a defeat are less terrible than
those which must ensue from the desertion or sedition of an
ill-paid and disaffected army. As their troops, then, are
chiefly raw men and aliens, they are without attachment to
their general, or confidence in each other : a variety of indepen-
dent commanders destroys all subordination and authority ;
and the certainty of beggary and starving from the common
accidents of war, throws a damp on the most ardent bravery.

" These circumstances, I apprehend, gentlemen, have been Eugiah victories.
very principal sources of our repeated victories over these
immense Asiatic armies, which have fled before a handful of
your troops ; and these will, I trust, either deter others in
future, or ensure success against any who may be desperate
enough to brave a force like ours, so strengthened by disci-
pline, and rendered formidable by uninterrupted successes.

" A second, and no less powerful reason for the security Disoord-incy

.of Native

of our situation, is the discordancy of the principles, views, pnuces.
and interests of the neighbouring powers ; and which must
ever defeat any project of accomplishing, by an association,
what the wealth or power of a single one must prove unequal
to. The majority of the present princes of Hindostan have
no natural right to the countries they possess. In the
general wreck of the monarchy, every man seized what
fortune threw into his hands ; and they are, therefore, more
studious to secure what they have already obtained, than to
grasp at new acquisitions. Hence, the principal disturbances
which have lately happened in Hindostan (Shuja-u-daula's
invasion of Bengal excepted) have been accidental broils
raised by the Mahrattas, Sikhs, and Ahmad Shah Abdali,
whose views were rather extended to plunder than to territorial
• possessions. Conscious that the maintenance of their usurped
authority depends on their preventing any of the members
from being too much depressed, or too much elevated, they



378



EARLY RECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.



English holding
the balance iu
Hiudostan.



Cliaraetcr and
situation of na-
tive powers.



The Kinp
Alain,



Shah



are become jealous and suspicious of each otLer, aud ever
ready to throw in their weight against any one whom they
see rising too high above the common level. For thisreason^
they at first looked on our successes with an evil eye ; still
our generosity to Shuja-u-daula, our attention to our trea-
ties and public faith, and, above all, our moderation in
not pursuing our victories, begot a confidence in us they had
not in their countrymen, and made them rather ambitious
of our friendship than jealous of our power.

" Thus circumstanced, it will always be easy for a watchful
and active administration on our side to hold the general
balance of Hindustan, and crush every combination in the
bud, by spiriting up some neighbouring power, who may be
either ill-disposed, or at least not favourable to the con-
federates. A very little acquaintance with the disposition of
the natives will shew their ardour for change, where they have
a prospect of support ; and the situation of Allahabad, and the
station of a brigade there, renders this plan still more practi-
cable. Its situation makes it, in some measure, the key of
the surrounding territories ; and its vicinity to the several
countries of Shiija-u-daula, the Rohillas, Jauts, and Mah-
rattas, enables us to penetrate their views with more
certainty, and in case of necessity, to enter any part with our
army in ten or fifteen days, where we can have either an ally
to support, or an enemy to punish. It is for these reasons,
we have been obliged to retain a brigade out of the pro-
vinces. Our repeated resolutions in Committee will, I doubt
not, evince our earnest desire to fulfil your orders on this
head, and the necessity itself excuses us for keeping it there
as long as these reasons shall subsist.

" Such, gentlemen, seem to be the general causes of our
present security here ; but they receive additional strength
from the particular characters and situations of the several
potentates themselves.

" The King Sliah Alam, acknowledged emperor of Hindu-
stan, retains little of the authority or dominions of his
ancestors, but what he has derived from us. The provinces



BEGINNING OF BRITISH ADMINISTRATION. 379

of Korah and Allahabad yield him a revenue of ahout
twenty-seven lakhs 1 per annum, at a rack-rent ; this is
almost exhausted, to support rather the name than the sub-
stance of an army, whilst the Bengal tribute defrays the
expences of his court and household, and enables him to
live in an affluence, if not with a splendour, he never before
enjoyed. His abilities are rather below mediocrity, and his
character seems rather calculated for private life than a
throne. He is religious as a man, affectionate as a father,
and humane as a master ; but as a prince he is weak,
indolent, irresolute, and easily swayed by the counsels of self-
interested men : I cannot, however, think we have anything
to apprehend from these dispositions ; the remembrance of
what he experienced, when dependent on Shuja-u-daula,
has created in him such a diffidence of Hindustan connexions
as will effectually prevent him trusting himself to any of
them again ; and, at the same time, he probably entertains
a distant hope that the hand which has already raised him to
his present independence, may one day be extended to restore
him to his throne and right.

'' The King has lately affected great earnestness to under- Anxiety of ti>e
take his favourite expedition to Dehli. But the lowness of oeiifi/° ^" ''^
his finances threaten his project with a very sudden abortion.
The weakness of his disposition is no less evident in the ad-
ministration of his domestic affairs, than in the formation
of his political schemes. Perpetual changes of his ministers
and confidants have bred an uncertainty and distrust in the
minds of all his adherents, which has checked public spirit,
and produced a general turn to selfish pursuits. With a
treasury so ill supplied, and a court so ill affected, it is more
than probable, if he should advance, that he will be jn*eyed on
by his own servants ; and being awakened from his delusion
by a scene of beggary and contempt, will ultimately take
protection in our provinces.

" From these conclusions it was I formed my opinion

. ' 337,500/. The King drew the revenue of Korah and Allahabad iu
addition to the tribute which he drew from the English iu Bengal.



380 . EARLY KECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.

some months ago, when I acquiesced in His Majesty^s
requisition o£ two battalions ; and all circumstances since have
served to corroborate that opinion. An occasion of demon-
strating- the sincerity of our professions, without subjecting" us
to any apparent inconvenience, were too inviting advantages
to be neglected, and may be derived from our connections
with his Majesty.
Necessity for " As the ueccssity of retaining His Majesty under our

retaininpr the . . , j.' l r l • •

Kins at Allah- influence, or separating ourselves entirely irom nim, is a
maxim in our system, and as the former seems most pro-
bable, we should be careful how we allow strangers to assume
the management of his councils. Our conduct towards him
is plain. We must either contrive to guide him at a distance,
or so to palliate, that, if unsuccessful, he may consider us as
his protectors, our provinces as the place of his refuge.

Superior advan- «: ^H thiuofs, at present, secm tending to the latter, and it

tasre of the ir, ) r J & ^

Kiii-r removing jg ^yy evcut most to be wishcd : but I had rather His Maiesty

to Bengal. ^ ' .

should make the proposition, than that we should give the
invitation. Disappointment may correct his impatience, and
difficulties may teach him prudence. The treachery of Hin-
dustan professions will prepare him better for the frank, plain
declarations of his English allies ; and there is the greatest
reason to believe he will return to us with repentance,
shvya-u-dania, " The Nawab Shuja-u-daula is our next ally ; and, if

Nawab Vizier . '' , it ^ , ^ , i

of crnde. gratitude can be any tie on an Hindustan heart, we have

every reason to consider him as connected with us by the
most indissoluble bonds. His dominions, except the zemin-
dary of Bulwant Sing, lie on the north of the Ganges, and
extend to the hills ; and, though they are more thinly peopled
than is common in this country, have been so much improved
by his late regulations in them, as to produce annually near
one crore and twenty-five lakhs of rupees.^ His increase of
strength has kept pace with his increase of revenue. He has
near eleven battalions of sepoys of all sorts, a good body of
horse, and has made considerable additions to his artillery and
magazines ; but, as his whole revenue can never support a

> 1,563,500/.



BEGINNING OF BRITISH ADMINISTRATION. 381

force which cau be really formiJahle to us, so it will always
be in our power to direct the force he has to such purposes
as may best conduce to the interest of the Honourable Com-
pany and the general peace. The Nawab^s education, and
perhaps disposition, have led him to be vain, aspiring-, and
impatient. He is active, but desultory ; his judgment
rather acute than sound ; and his generalship and policy
more plausible than solid. From pride, or jealousy, he is
afraid to employ men of abilities or rank in the several
departments of his government ; he plans, directs, oversees,
and executes everything himself ; so that the multiplicity
of business, and his daily increasing infirmities, oblige him
to leave his best designs imperfect and crude. His ambition,
it is true, is always inciting him to form new projects, but
his volatility induces him to be continually abandoning
some, and his impetuosity often renders the remainder
abortive. In a word, from a most careful review of his
character and conduct, he seems a much proper instrument
to accomplish the Company's main point, the maintaining
themselves the empire of Hindustan, than an enemy who,
from his strength or situation, could give them any material
uneasiness or trouble."

Mr. Verelst contemplated a measure, as resrards Proposed

_^ ^ dethronement

the Nizam of Hyderabad, which reads somewhat "^ "'*' ''^'^'""•
strangely in the present day. The Nizam had
proved refractory. He had joined Hyder Ali of
Mysore in his war against the English at Madi-as.
Verelst proposed to punish him, and set up another
Nizam in his room. He proceeded after Moghul
forms. He procured a grant from the King at
Allahabad of the whole of the Nizam's dominions.
The name of the person to whom the grant was to
he made was left blank. The grant was sent to
Madras. The English at Madras were told to depose



382



EARLY RECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.



Grant of a
blank firman to
tlie Ensrlsh for
the Subahdar-
ship of the
Dekhan,



Ecfjrcts of
VcrelBt.



the Nizam, and set up another in his room. Tliey
were at liberty to make their choice, and then to
fill up the blank in the grant with the name of the
new Nizam. The measure is fully explained in the
following extract from a general letter ^ : —

" By letters some time since received from the gentlemen
at Madras, it appears that they laboured under great difficul-
ties in the nomination of a Subali to the Moghul province of
the Dekhan, in case Nizam Ali should, by an obstinate per-
severance in his unjust measures, oblige them to deprive him
of his government; and they were even pleased to request
our opinion in a matter of so great importance. We ex-
pressed ourselves with that unreserved freedom which we
wish may mutually subsist between the two Presidencies ; and
judging it expedient to secure the King's firman for the
nomination of some other person, our President was desired
to apply for the same to His Majesty, who has been pleased
to comply with the request ; and in a letter lately received from
him, he promised to despatch a blank firman within five days
of the date thereof, to be filled with the name of any
person we may judge most proper for the security and lasting
tranquillity of your possessions on the coast. This is a
power we should be loth to avail ourselves of, excepting in
the case of the utmost necessity; and such we fear this will
prove, if we can form our judgment from the present situa-
tion of affairs.''''

Verelst was so convinced of the expediency of

this measure, that a year afterwards he expressed

his regret that it had not been carried out. The

passage is worthy of extract : —

*•' I could have wished the gentlemen on the coast " had been
more deeply impressed with this idea, so that the reinforce-

1 Despatch to tbe Court of Directors, dated 3rd February 1768.

2 xhc presidency of Madras, on the coast of Coroniandel.



BEGINNING OF BRITISH ADMINISTRATION. 353

ments sent from Bengal, instead of being scattered and dis-
membered, mig'ht have struck the important blow we medi-
tated against the Subah.' In this case, Hyderabad, weak
and defenceless, must have fallen an easy j^rey before the
Nizam could have even received intelligence of the expedi-
tions; and,, as the capture must have more universally enforced
a conviction of our power, so the generous restitution of
it to a repenting enemy, must have highly exalted our
moderation and disinterestedness.'^

The measure, liowever, was contrary to the policy Directors

onnccl tlic

of the Directors. They expressed their disapproyal '"■"='"•
in the strongest terms. They ordered the grant
to be cancelled.

Verelst left Bengal at the end of 1769. He was neparturc of

Vorclst.

succeeded by Mr. Cartier, who in his turn gave
place to Warren Hastings. The administration of
Warren Hastings opens up a new era in Indian liis-
tory, into which it is impossible to enter in the
present volume.

It has been seen more than once that witliin two possibility of an
or three years of the battle of Plassey, the English o^er mndostan.
entertained the idea of going to Delhi. Possibly
tlie attempt might have proved a success, and
even at this early period the Enghsh might have
established a paramount power in Hindostan.
But the course of events prevented the enterprise.
Indeed, an Anglo-Indian empire under the existing
system would have been productive of evil rather
than of good. The appropriation of revenues for
trading purposes, without regard for the people who

' Nizam Ally, Subab of the Dekban.



384 EARLY RECORDS OF BRITISH INDIA.

paid it, was bad enough in Bengal ; it would have
been fatal to the good name of the British govern-
ment had it ever been extended into Hindostan.
Failure of the It was destlucd that Bengal should be the schot)l
visors. of English administrators ; that the English should

not become masters of an Indian empne until they
had learned how to rule it ; and this result was not
effected until a later generation. The measure of
appointing Supravisors was a move in the right
direction, l)ut it proved a failure. An Englishman
placed alone in a large district, surrounded by
native influences of the worst character, was help-
less to contend against the general corruption, and
was often tempted to share in the spoil. Such
appears to have been the fate of Yerelst's Supra-
visors.



INDEX.



Ahmadabad, description of, by Mendelslo, 23.

Akbar, reign of, 3 ; policy of, ib. ; partiality for Hindus and Europeans, 4.

Alivcrdi Khan, Nawab of Bengal, his rise, 200 ; his treachery towards

the Raja of the Chukwars, 201 ; his usurpation, 207 ; death, 225.
Arakan, King of, his invasion of Bengal, 151 ; punishment, 153.
Arcot, Nawab of, 134 ; dependence on the Nizam, 135 ; history of the

wars of, 137 ; the French and English Nawabs, 141.
Assam, ravages of the Raja, 152 ; submits to the Nawab of Bengal, 166.
Aurungzeb, 12 ; bigotry and hypocrisy, 13 ; war between the four princes,

ib. ; reign of, 14 ; rise of the Mahrattas, ib. ; takes the tield, 16 ;

persecuting wars against Hindus, ib. ;wars in Rajputana, 17 ; threatens

Golkonda, 86 ; conquers it, 88 ; persecutes the Hindus, IGl ; demands

jezya from Europeans, ib.

Bengal, English settlements in, 147 ; Moghul obstructiveness, ib. ; old
hatred of the Poiiuguese, ib. ; Mussulman complaints against the
Portuguese, ib. ; revenge of Shah Jehan on Hughli, 148 ; English
at Piply, 149 ; English trade duty free, ib. ; English factory at
Hughli, 150 ; saltpetre factory at Patua, ib. ; absence of records
at Calcutta, ib. ; war between the sons of Shah Jehan, ib. ; Moghul
wars for the succession, 151 ; invasion of Bengal by the King of
Arakan, ib. ; ravages of the Rajas of Assam and Cooch Behar, 152 ;
Amir Jumla, Viceroy of Bengal, 1658, ib. ; Shaista Khan, Viceroy,
1664, ib. ; punishment of the King of Arakan, 153 ; suppression of
Portuguese pirates, ib. ; complaints of the English, ib. ; commutation of
duties, 154; Tavernier's journey from Agra to Dacca and Hughli,
1665-66, ib. ; persecution of Hindus, 161 ; jezya demanded from
Europeans, ib. ; the English oppressed, ib. ; Mr. Job Ohamock, ib. ;
foundation of Calcutta, 162 ; loss of the saltpetre trade, ib. ; Hindu
rebellion in Bengal, 1696, ib. ; fortification of Calcutta, 163 ; Engli.sh
hold the rank of zemindar, ib. ; objections over-niled, 164 ; Murshed
Kuli Khan, Nawab, 1707, ib. ; zemindars oppressed, ib. ; employment
of new collectors, 165 ; re-measurement of lands, ib. ; subsistence allow-
ances to zemindars, ib. ; zemindars of Bhirbhum and Kishnaghur



Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 32 of 33)